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Doctors urge mental health group not to meet in Israel

Israeli security forces take a Palestinian minor into custody in the West Bank on 20 December 2017 [Wisam Hashlamoun/Apaimages]
Israeli security forces take a Palestinian minor into custody in the West Bank on 20 December 2017 [Wisam Hashlamoun/Apaimages]

Mental health experts have called on the International Association for Relational Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy’s to reconsider its decision to hold its 2019 international meeting in Israel because of the latter’s aggression towards Palestinians.

A letter addressed to the IARPP, signed by renown Palestinian psychiatrist Samah Jabr and a number of American therapists, calls on the body to consider

the grave crisis posed by the Israeli occupation and its currently escalating attacks on the Palestinian people – attacks reflective of an overarching policy of ethnic cleansing and consequent seizure of land, restriction of freedom of movement, and control over natural resources.

They said they have “an added responsibility to make our voices heard … as mental health workers familiar with the impact of violence on both individual health and collective well-being.”

The doctors went on to highlight Israel’s reliance “upon intimidation, extrajudicial assassination, and torture of Palestinians – including the torture of children, often involving sexual assault.”

“To locate international conferences related to any professional domain in Israel, in our view, represents a tacit acceptance of the behaviour of the state of Israel,” they wrote, adding: “To hold such conferences cannot help but advance the interests of the state of Israel through the implication that Israel welcomes a free exchange of ideas.”

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“It is particularly ironic and painful to see Israel chosen as the site of an international conference when the central theme of the particular organisation is the in-depth understanding of human relationships.”

Though there have previously been calls to allow Palestinian doctors to attend the meeting if it is held in Israel, the mental health experts said this is not a valid solution, not least because they “may find merely showing up at the conference to be impossible due to checkpoints, movement restrictions, blacklisting of activists, and other everyday experiences familiar to Palestinians”.

Read the full letter here

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